He (The Pope) is gathering the kings of the earth into a place (for talks for Peace and Safety) in the Hebrew Tounge "Community of Sant'egidio"

Slovenian leader meets with Pope

Vatican, Nov. 29, 2007 - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) met Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa in a private audience on November 29.

Jansa invited the Holy Father to visit Slovenia in 2009, for the closing of the National Eucharist Congress. During his visit he discussed plans for Slovenia's term at the presidency of the European Union during the first 6 months of 2008. He also spoke about the government's plans for the restoration of church properties that were confiscated by the country's Communist regime.

After his meeting with the Pope, Prime Minister Jansa spoke separately with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone .

Christians must respond to challenges with 'united voice,' pope says

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI told Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople that Christians must "respond with a united voice and with conviction" to the challenges modern men and women are facing.

"Our work toward unity is according to the will of Christ Our Lord," the pope said in the letter, released at the Vatican Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew, the Constantinople patriarchate's patron.

The letter was delivered to the patriarch and read during the feast day celebration by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Pope Benedict said his visit to Turkey last year to participate in the feast day celebration and the tradition of the pope and patriarchate sending delegations to each other's celebrations "represent authentic signs of the commitment of our churches to an ever-deeper communion, strengthened through cordial personal relations, prayer and the dialogue of charity and truth."

The pope also thanked God for the work of the Catholic-Orthodox theological commission, which met in Ravenna, Italy, in October and published a document on the exercise of authority in the church.

"The meeting in Ravenna was not without its difficulties," Pope Benedict said, and "I pray earnestly that these may soon be clarified and resolved, so that there may be full participation" in future meetings and initiatives "aimed at continuing the theological dialogue in mutual charity and understanding."

The Russian Orthodox delegation walked out of the Ravenna meeting to protest the presence of a delegation from the Estonian Orthodox Church, recognized as autonomous by the ecumenical patriarchate but not by the Russian church.

Marking the Orthodox feast and the anniversary of Pope Benedict's visit to the patriarchate in Turkey, the Vatican newspaper published an interview with Patriarch Bartholomew in its Nov. 30 edition.

The patriarch said Pope Benedict's visit was "a gift of God for all Christians; an extraordinary day, an event of hope, a historic sign."

"With much sadness we confess that we still cannot celebrate the sacred mysteries together and we pray that the day will come in which sacramental unity can be fully accomplished," he told the newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

The patriarch said the search for unity is a responsibility of all believers.

"Without hesitation we will continue our common journey in the spirit of love and fidelity toward the truth of the Gospel and of the common tradition of the holy fathers in order to restore the full communion of our churches," he said.

The patriarch, who like the pope praised the work of the international Catholic-Orthodox theological commission, said it is obvious that Catholics and Orthodox are still divided by serious differences.

While the commission members recognized the fact that the bishop of Rome, the pope, held a position of primacy in the early church, they also said it was not clear that his primacy included concrete authority over other patriarchs and bishops. The next phase of the dialogue is to focus on the authority of the pope in the first millennium, when Christians of the East and West were still in communion with each other.

Patriarch Bartholomew told the Vatican newspaper that each church must preserve its own traditions and, at the same time, find ways to draw closer to the other.

"I do not know what the future holds for us. There must be good will, sincerity and courage on the part of all to go forward," he said.

Personal encounters between popes and patriarchs, he said, are opportunities "to cultivate our relationship more in depth and to draw closer to (sharing) a common chalice. And this desire can be transformed into reality through our efforts, our prayers and our insistence."

Patriarch Bartholomew, who said the pope's 2006 visit to Turkey also marked an important step forward in relations with Muslims, said the key idea behind dialogue is that differences should not prevent people from talking to each other.

"The deepest meaning of dialogue lies in the fact that the other is not a stranger, but God's creation, so he is not a threat to me, but a joy, because in him we see the image of God," the patriarch said.

Also in the News -

Vatican delegation joins Annapolis peace talks

Annapolis, Nov. 27, 2007 - Msgr. Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's undersecretary of state, heads a delegation from the Holy See participating in the Middle East peace conference that opens today in Annapolis, Maryland.

Msgr. Parolin-- who is deputy to Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Secretary for Relations with States-- will be accompanied by Msgr. Francesco Coppola to the peace conference. During his Angelus audience on Sunday, November 25, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) endorsed a plea from the US bishops for a day of prayer for the success of the Annapolis conference. The Pope noted that "Israelis and Palestinians, with the help of the international community, aim to relaunch the negotiating process in order to find a just and definitive solution to the conflict which, for the last 60 years, has bloodied the Holy Land and brought so many tears and so much suffering to the two peoples."

International News

Mon 26 Nov 2007

Hopes high as Abbas arrives in US


THE Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, arrived in the US yesterday for a Middle East peace conference with high hopes of making progress towards an independent Palestinian state.

Israeli leaders also arrived in Washington yesterday ahead of tomorrow's peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, which the Palestinian president termed a "launching pad" for talks on a final Palestinian peace deal with Israel.

"I am going to Annapolis in an effort to realise the dream of the Palestinian people for an independent state," Mr Abbas said.

But in the West Bank and Gaza Strip there is widespread scepticism about Mr Abbas's ability to achieve any gains for Palestinians.

Israel's rejection of a freeze on its settlement construction in the occupied West Bank is seen as an indication that there is no real pressure from the White House on the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

And the Palestinians' bargaining position has been weakened by division of the self-rule areas between Mr Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.

"Abbas is kidding himself when he says Annapolis will fulfil the dream of a state, but to maintain his role he believes he has no choice but to proceed," said Hani Masri, a columnist for al-Ayyam newspaper, describing the peace conference a "charade".

Israeli officials said yesterday it was still possible the two sides would reach agreement on a declaration aimed at "launching" negotiations, but added that such a declaration would not resolve the key issues in dispute including settlements, Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.

Mr Abbas, 70, a co-founder of Fatah along with the late Yasser Arafat, pioneered PLO contacts with Israeli doves during the 1980s and oversaw the secret negotiations with Israel that led to the failed 1993 Oslo Agreement on self-rule.

He criticized the second intifada uprising on the grounds that its bombing campaigns harmed the Palestinian cause.

"Abbas believes there is no other choice besides negotiations. He believes that if negotiations fail, you should engage in more negotiations," Mr Masri said.

"Israel will be the beneficiary of Annapolis. To the world it will appear that it wants peace and is searching for peace. For Abbas, however, Annapolis will gradually bring about his end politically."

• Pope Benedict XVI yesterday urged in prayers that the participants at the summit find the "wisdom and courage" necessary to bring peace. He said the meeting, to which the Vatican is sending a delegation, hoped to relaunch negotiations "to find a just and definitive solution to the conflict which for 60 years has bloodied the Holy Land".

SYRIA will attend the Annapolis conference, it said yesterday, boosting US efforts to enlist widespread Arab support for a new Middle East peace drive.

Ending weeks of uncertainty, the official Syrian news agency said the official delegation would be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Fayssal Mekdad, left. Syria had insisted the meeting also deal with the future of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel and Syria last held peace negotiations in 2000, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, but could not reach a deal on the Golan Heights.

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